General William Nicholson Grier collection of photographs
Portions of this collection are digitized

Collection ID:
Grier, William Nicholson, General, 1812-1885
Wolfenstein, V (Valentin), 1844-1909
Choate, J. N. (John N.), 1848-1902
Physical Description:
0.03 Linear feet
10 Photographic prints
The General William Nicholson Grier photograph collection contains 10 photographs that Grier collected related to his service with the US Army (1835-1870). The photographs include depictions of Carlisle Indian School students circa 1879-1884 and portraits of the 1868 Navajo Treaty signers.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of 10 photographs that were collected by General William Nicholson Grier (1812-1885) related to his service with the US Army (1835-1870). The collection includes 6 photographs of Carlisle Indian School students and visitors that were photographed by photographer John N. Choate circa 1879-1884, and one portrait of Chief Standing Bear (also known as Mochunozhi or Ma-chu-nu-zhe).
The most significant photographs in this collection are three albumen prints shot by Valentin Wolfenstein between March and June 1868. Photograph P20819 depicts an outdoor portrait most likely of the Navajo Treaty signers at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This photograph is one of only two known photographs depicting this scene (the other copy is at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology).

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
William Nicholson Grier was born on June 11, 1812 in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. After graduating from West Point U.S. Military Academy in New York, he served as a Major of the 2nd U.S. Regular Cavalry during the Civil War and later as a Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st U.S. Regular Cavalry. Throughout his 35 year military career, Grier served in a number of capacities. His posts included serving at Fort Carlisle, Pennsylvania from April 1866 to April 1868, where he was Superintendent of Mounted Recruiting Service and was promoted to Colonel of the 3rd Cavalry. He then served as Commander at Fort Union in New Mexico from July 12, 1868 to May 1870. Grier retired on Dec. 15, 1870. He passed away on July 8, 1885 in Napa City, California and was buried in Northumberland, PA.
Between 1863 and 1866, the U.S. Army forced almost 12,000 Diné (Navajo) people from their ancestral homelands and relocated them 400 miles away to Fort Sumner, Bosque Redondo Reservation in New Mexico. On June 1, 1868, General William T. Sherman and Colonel Samuel F. Tappen met in Fort Sumner with Diné (Navajo) leaders led by Chief Barboncito to negotiate a treaty to allow the Diné (Navajo) to return to their ancestral homelands.
Valentin Wolfenstein, a Swedish-American photographer, was at Fort Sumner, New Mexico from March to July of 1868 and photographed the events before and after the Navajo Treaty signing. The Diné (Navajo) set of photographs in this collection have been attributed to many different photographers over the years, but Wolfenstein is believed to be the original photographer. Based on an excerpt from his journal, a few scholars believed that Wolfenstein could have sold his photographic equipment and photographs to Nicholas Brown, and this belief, along with later reprinting of the Barboncito portrait, may have led to some misattribution of Wolfenstein's work to N. Brown and Son and the Browns' work to Wolfenstein.
John Nicholas Choate (1848-1902) was the official photographer of the Carlisle Indian School from the school's founding in 1879 to his death in 1902. The Carlisle Indian School was the first non-reservation government-supported Indian school. Choate sold his photographs as a series of cabinet cards, cartes-de-visite, and stereographs.
It is likely that Grier collected the Diné (Navajo) photographs when he served at Fort Union in New Mexico, immediately following the 1868 Navajo Treaty. Presumably, Grier collected the Carlisle Indian School photographs in this collection after his retirement from the U.S. Army, in connection to his service at Fort Carlisle.

Emily Moazami
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collected by General William Nicholson Grier (1812-1885) during his service with the US Army (1835-1870); inherited by his daughter, Anna Grier Campbell (1848-ca. 1915) and then by her son Robert C. Campbell (1891-1966); donated to Museum of the American Indian by Robert C. Campbell in 1963 in memory of his grandfather.
Custodial History
There are some discrepancies in number of photographs in this collection. The original donation paperwork reported that there were 10 photographs total. However, 12 photographs were later cataloged under this collection at some unknown point in time. The additional 2 photographs were then marked as missing in NMAI's database in 2007. It is possible that only 10 photographs were donated and that the 2 additional photographs were accidently attributed to this collection and corrected at some point without further documentation.
Processing Information
This collection was processed by Emily Moazami, Assistant Head Archivist, 2018.
Separated Materials
Gerneral William Nicholson Grier's grandson Robert C. Campbell also donated objects to NMAI in 1963 (NMAI Catalog numbers 232812-232855). These objects were collected by Grier during his military career.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email:
Preferred Citation
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); General William Nicholson Grier collection of photographs, Photograph Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to For personal or classroom use, users are invited to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not modified in any way, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian. For more information please see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use and NMAI Archive Center's Digital Image request website.

Related Materials
The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology also holds photographs related to the Navajo Treaty signing shot by Valentin Wolfenstein.
The National Anthrolopogical Archives also holds photographs shot by Valentin Wolfenstein and glass plate negatives shot by John N. Choate.

More Information

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Diné (Navajo) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ponca Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dakota (Eastern Sioux) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kiowa Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Niimíipuu (Nez Perce) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pueblo Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Museum of the American Indian
4220 Silver Hill Rd
Suitland, Maryland 20746-2863